Death of a Thousand Words
Somewhere in eastern Sogadar
Sagram looked out beyond the parapets into the eastward deserts just as the sun began to sink behind the mountainous horizon, at the enemy, where the tribes of the Sogad dwelled.
They had been pushing further west than usual, which was hardly a cause for concern. They had once before reached as far as Mehraqi to the south. What alarmed Sagram, and more importantly his king Jayasari, was that they had taken their families with them and began to settle the lands they had traditionally raided. But even this should not produce the reaction Jayasari and kings like him had had. Nomads roam and settle throughout Sikatā all the time, and so long as they pay their tithes, they were hardly trouble.
It was the number of which these Sogad came, and their discontent to remain in the deserts only that fear and panic were appropriately placed upon. The Zamsitr, the bard who knew everything about his people, had told stories of these easterners when Sagram was young. Of their horses, their ferociousness, and their cannibalism, using them as he used monsters to scare the children from disobedience.
He was the first to die when the Sogad came to Sagram's village; a lance through the lungs, and the death of a thousand words of the history and deeds of his people along with his.
Sagram had only narrowly escaped when the eastern riders came. He witnessed from afar the blood and burnings from the hill his father liked to sleep on, watching them near his house swiftly with their horses. Sagram had thought of running down, grabbing hold of their swords that bounced from their waist and killing them with their own bronze. He had thought of that, but merely watched as they entered the house, chasing after his mother as she escaped, and watching her body float down the stream his sisters used to play in when they were younger. He thought of the Tabla's his father had given him for his birthday, but the house had caught on fire before the thought even occurred to him.
The noise of a clattering roar faded behind Sagram, the tell-tale signs of Jayasari and his infamous wrath. He reminded Sagram of the great kings and heroes of yore; who slew the great beast who kidnapped his bride, who conquered great lands for his people to settle, and who fought off invading horsemen from taking the kingdom he had taken himself. Jayasari certainly looked the part, he was as tall as they were, his voice and loud and commanding as theirs, and his mind as sharp with wit as them. "The essence of victory" his name meant; the predestined victor over the invading nomads. Yet as he rode out with his men in such a fashion that the bards would lay such heroic deeds, he returned instead with half of what he brought out, and clear in his face were doubt, confusion, and loss.
Sagram drew a loud breath out, and stood from where he squatted, the audible crackling of his bones following him with the fires of his village. Elsewhere, a mother cried, father died, a son was orphaned, his family home torn down and settled by another boy and his family from the eastern mountains. In those days, he could have fought, but he wouldn't. In his old age now, he would have fought, but he couldn't. Yet there he stood, on the earthen walls of his adopted liege, spear in hand, watching at the approach of his enemy to the east. He glanced behind him, westwards, to where the desert stretched endlessly to a mountainless horizon. There were Sogad there as well.